Monday, March 18, 2013

Walking the Labyrinth

Leaving my old life behind and stepping onto the path of the Priest/ess. December 2010. (Photo by Adrienne A)
Today I happened to find this photo from the time my life was going through its most intense shedding phase. It felt bigger than death to me. I had questioned every part of my identity and let go of it all, wondering what would form from the nothingness I felt. What came then was a memory of wandering in the forest when I was five. I knew back then that I was a Priest/ess and that magick was everywhere, though I wouldn't have used those words—or any words—for it at the time. Around Winter Solstice, some friends from Lopez Island came to visit and we discovered the labyrinth at Land's End. I had never seen it before. I look at this photo and I can feel the uncertainty, the grief, the fear, and hidden deep inside, the seed of faith ready to open within me.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Inspiring Sun and the Nurturing Earth

The text for the Bardic Activity I wrote for CAYA's Equinox of Joyful Vows:

Earth moves slowly in a circle. Sun dances at the center, rotating slowly to always face the earth.
Earth speaks:

The earth rolls over and something feels different. Clouds gather to discuss possibilities and joyfully release their rain onto the thirsty earth. The snow begins to melt. This sends the rivers shouting gleefully down the mountainsides. Curious seeds pokes their heads out out of their sleeping bags, "What's up? What's happening?" A great bird swoops down from above and lands on a branch bursting with buds. While down below, a glimmering snake wriggles through the daffodils making them laugh in the breeze. All of life yearning to behold this golden monarch who approaches. To touch and be touched by warm fingers of light.

Earth to Sun: Where have you been? It was so cold while you were gone.
Sun to Earth: I’ve been here all along. It is you who drifted away into your dark dreams.
Earth: It seemed you drifted further and further a little each day, and the darkness made me feel so sleepy.
Sun: I could not stop your wandering.
Earth: I wondered if you still cared.
Sun: I wonder what secrets you keep from me when you are so far away.
Earth: I withhold nothing from you.
Sun: I watched you swirling, tossing your leaves in the wind. You looked so beautiful and small, shivering in your snowy mantle.
Earth: Why didn’t you follow?
Sun: You know I cannot leave my post.
Earth: Were you afraid to lose me forever?
Sun: I knew you’d swing back my way.
Earth: How did you know?
Sun: That’s how we dance, my friend.
Earth: We’ve done this before?
Sun: We’ll do it again.
Earth: I must forget each time, because I would swear this is the first day ever. Doesn't everything seem fresh and bright and new? See the little lambs hopping like popcorn on the green fields. And the swarms of bees buzzing in the trees. It's hard to believe that anything had ever existed before today.
Sun: I love the look of surprise when my rays awaken you. I love the way you blush with cherry blossoms.
Earth: I wasn’t really asleep. I kept one eye on you.
Sun: Let us dance together, you fertile beauty!
Earth: I can't resist! You dance divinely, glorious one!

They dance together a moment, bow, and move on…

Around & Around, Inside Out

Part of my Priest/ess training in CAYA involves participating in the planning and conducting of several public rituals throughout the year. Last night I made my debut in "Center Stage" (as one of the High Priests put it). The past two weeks have been an intense, challenging, and supremely rewarding experience that culminated in DOING that which before I had only read or thought or talked about— I presided before a congregation in sacred space.

The Equinox of Joyful Vows celebrated both the point in the solar year where the sun and earth meet between the Solstices and also the ordination of our newest clergy members. The theme of the sun's apparent return (and earth's actual return) to a place of equal light and dark comingled with themes of emerging from a way of being that no longer fits. This is the reign of the ascending sun, the time of spring busting out of winter's cocoon. These themes of migration and shedding were woven throughout the ritual, symbolized by the spirits of Bird and Snake, two creatures of change.

One big CAYA lesson I learned is that if you open your mouth during a planning meeting, you're going to be doing something about it. Having been a solitary practitioner for most of my life, I was startled to discover that my bright ideas were not only appreciated by the coordinating clergy members, but I was now in charge of manifesting them! Before I knew it, I had signed up to provide a Bardic Activity about The Inspiring Sun and The Nurturing Earth. I barely even understood what was meant by "Bardic Activity," but it was explained that I was to tell a story, a poem, a song or dance in honor of the Divine energies we had called into our Circle— in this case, Bird and Snake. To say I was nervous about undertaking such an important part of the ritual is a big, juicy understatement.

Next, the committee decided we needed an appropriate song for the Deity Activity, which was to be Bird and Snake blessings for any congregants who so desired to receive them. The coordinating High Priest/ess suggested that maybe we could write one. I mentioned that sometimes songs "come to me," and probably this would happen as I drove home over the bridge that night. And surely enough one did! The committee agreed it was just right. It felt amazing to have this strange little gift of mine so appreciated.

Another challenge was the fact that the Bardic Activity I wrote involved working with a member of the clergy that I wouldn't be able to rehearse with until right before the ritual. I knew she was a dancer, and so I envisioned her as The Inspiring Sun dancing in the center of my orbit as the Nurturing Earth, and I kept the dialogue brief. Years of theatre experience had led me to depend on rehearsing before a performance, however I was beginning to recognize important differences between a rehearsed performance and a sacred ritual. In a sacred space, the Priest/ess opens up to the Divine energies and lets them come through as they will. So I decided to trust that once we were between the worlds, everything would unfold as it should.

And this brings me to the meaning of Perfect Love and Perfect Trust, for that is what I clearly experienced during the ritual. We had gathered our tools and altar items, adorned ourselves in ritual finery, went over the outline— but once the circle was cast, something else took over. It felt like we had all surrendered our egos and control to the Divinity we celebrated. As I spoke to the congregation, I felt the Perfect Love and Perfect Trust of the clergy beaming at me, supporting me in this moment of my Foolish leap off the cliff of my solitude. I looked into their eyes and saw delight and wonder and respect.

I did have one major Public Priest/ess Pop Quiz surprise. The very moment I stepped before the congregation, I looked out and recognized someone from my past in the back row. Someone I hadn't seen in years. OK, it was an ex. One wobbly wave of awkwardness went through me, and then I felt that Perfect Love and Perfect Trust stabilize me again. I was here to honor the Divine, to serve this community—including my ex. I had no control over who came to this public ritual. In fact, I welcomed all who attended. It even made me smile a little that the Divine had offered this test of my skills. Verdict: I got lots of work to do, but I did pretty good.

The high point for me was hearing dozens of voices singing the "Bird/Snake" song. High soaring harmonies and deep resonance I never could have sung by myself, and propelling rythms provided by our drummers. It took on a life of its own. I can still hear it in my memory.
The bird returns (around and around)
The snake emerges (inside out)

I haven't mentioned that I also taught a dance to the committee, that we had planned to do, in theory. In practice, the space was too small, so we had to improvise on the spot. I had already surrendered to the momentum of the ritual, and was delighting in the discoveries we were making together (although I do hope we have an opportunity to perform this dance outside or in a bigger space someday). A part of me was always "on the job," keeping one eye on the committee members and another on myself, making sure I was keeping up my end of the bargain. This was another Priest/ess lesson— the responsibility that alters the ritual experience. No longer was I able to drift off or lose focus, or goof off. Not that I'm prone to such behavior at public rituals, but my sense of accountablity had increased.

Meanwhile, my third eye was tuning into the swirling sparkling magick in the Circle, experiencing a deeper reverence than I ever had before. Service connects me deeper to my Here and Now than anything else I have tried. In service, I feel the embrace of the Divine, the kiss of the Goddess, the protection of the God, the allness of all.